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The Hijabi Boxer: Breaking Barriers In Boxing

With our new Engage collection dropping this week, we caught up with Safiyyah Syeed, also known as @thehijabiboxer. Breaking the barriers not only within her community but in the world of boxing. We had a chat to find out more about her story and the new MP engage pieces she’s rocking.


Question: How did you get into boxing?
Answer:

I don’t have really a nice, cool story, I just fell in love with it. I used to have a long term illness, I was ill for two and a half years and basically made a pact to myself by writing list of things I was going to do once I got better, and boxing was on that list. After my illness came an eating disorder, and boxing was the thing that helped me get through both. I have done loads on the list so far, graduating from 2 apprenticeships, working in IT, retail and one of the most inspiring things was working in a nursing home, which was the best thing I ever did. One thing I learnt from the older people I used to talk with was to live life with no regrets, and that’s why I went through that list. I had the mindset of doing 5 or 6 different things and if I find something I love I’ll stick with it.

Question: What keeps you disciplined?
Answer:

You know what, my mind is different. Everyday I’m surrounded by people in the gym whose parents watch every session, people are pushing them or they’re doing it because their brother or cousins are boxing. No one’s pushing me on, no one’s watching me, so it’s different because it’s personal. When I get in the ring it’s a mindset game honestly. I was speaking to my coach about how you could be physically 100%, but if you’re not mentally there, you are not going to win. For example, I recently went to Fuerteventura to go to a training camp with Billy Joe Saunders, yet I got covid on the 3rd day, I didn’t even get to meet him. The first few days I was feeling sorry for myself. But I turned it to a positive and used the time to do things I never get chance to do, it’s that beast mentality you need to have

Question: What does a typical day in your life look like?
Answer:

It varies, no two days are the same. I’ll train, eat, and pray in the morning but one day I could be in London presenting, or in Manchester doing a speech, sometimes I’m doing shoots. I really like this side of things as I feel like building a brand is so important. There’s so many talented boxers and athletes, but they don’t build themselves, I feel if you’re going to be an athlete there needs to be something about you. Plus, you need to maximize it as this won’t last forever.

Question: What’s been your biggest challenge?
Answer:

This is a tough one; just breaking the barriers in general. Not just in my community but in the boxing world. Obviously being a female boxer in a hijab from the Asian community is very rare, I either get 100% support or people asking me what am I doing. At the start I had many doubters, but it made me stronger, it makes me hungry when people doubt me. Now some of the same people pretend to know me or give support, first they laughed now they support me.

Question: How has the MP Engage collection aided your training and how important is good clothing?
Answer:

Yeah, to be honest I never used to go out of my way to buy MP, however since I’ve started wearing it for training, I realized it’s amazing. I’ve had people asking me about the range and I’ve even taken it to training camps. What I love about MP is their broad range other brands simply don’t have. Other brands have nice stuff but it’s always skin-tight and often revealing. I’m fighting at the end of the month, and I need something to put under my vest to cover up with, so I got a long sleeve MP top for that because it’s perfect. Obviously, I need to be modest in my clothing, and that’s why I love MP, I’m able to cover up yet still feel super comfortable. Even when I’m not training, I wear it. I bought the fleece joggers to London and did a presentation in them; I can wear it wherever. You also don’t have to be spending as much money as you do with other gym wear brands which is a big plus!

Question: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to take up boxing?
Answer:

Go for it, don’t think about it. The feeling after is amazing, pain is temporary. You’ll leave the gym thinking WOW, I was dying during that session but feel AMAZING now. It’s weird, in life whenever there’s pain or stress usually you’re like ‘forget this’, but with boxing you almost want more pain, it’s strange.

Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Answer:

Hopefully I’ll have a few medals! But really, I want to change the world of boxing. The medals and belts will come, but I want to enjoy the process, give myself a pat on the back and appreciate what I’ve done. The goal is to change the game and build my brand. I just want to level up. My legacy is the most important thing to me, I want to be a positive for the Asian community, I can’t change the negatives, but I can still make a positive impact.

It’s safe to say everyone at MP has nothing but admiration for Saf and we will be behind all the way her through her career!



Jacob Manborde

Jacob Manborde

Writer and expert